Jigsaw Life

A reflection
by Chris Hibbard
inspired by Mary Jane
November 4, 2015


Life is like a jigsaw puzzle.

At first we see a beautiful image, and it is all we can do to keep from tearing the lid off of the box.
But once the box has been opened, we realize exactly how many pieces this puzzle contains.

Thousands of pieces – each of them are nearly identical, but every one is unique.
So we begin our lives, shuffling through the pieces, looking for where the hard edges are, for once we have determined the shape and size of the puzzle, the frame can begin to be filled.

In the beginning you make a plan, like setting out for a long journey. Some people sort the pieces into colors, and others into shapes. But no matter your method or your skill level, the puzzle gets put together one piece at a time. There are no true shortcuts to a jigsaw puzzle.

Some pieces fall into place effortlessly. Some require a few extra taps to ensure that they stay put. Some feel like they fit – but it is only later that you see they were wrong.

We learn quickly that we cannot jam the pieces together where they do not belong.
The puzzle is intimidating. One piece connects with another, yet there are hundreds more just waiting to be tried.

Sometime we spend so many hours on the puzzle trying to make each piece fit that we want to just give up, break it all apart and shove it back in its box.

But we don’t. Because we know that what we are building is a masterpiece. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an easy fifty-piece puzzle or a much more complicated 5,000 piece monster – we are aiming to complete the picture, even if we may be unsure of what the final picture will be.

So we spend our time poking and prodding, spinning our pieces around, examining the photo on the box, looking for what piece goes where. Sometimes we start with one small section and then just give up, moving on to another section without even appreciating the work we just did.

Sometimes we lose patience. We wonder why we worked so hard just to find that one perfect piece, when we could have been elsewhere, looking at a whole new section. Yet the truth is that the pieces were all there to begin with. They were there all along. We just didn’t notice them because our minds were pre-occupied.

Other times it is a frustrating challenge. Sometimes you reach a point where all the pieces look the same; sections of sky, of desert, of ocean, fur and feather.
Sometimes the puzzle process is thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing. Always it is time-consuming and requires patience.

Sometimes it seems that you’ve been looking at the same pieces over and over again, and they will never fit. Until just as you’re ready to give up, suddenly it appears, it fits into place, and the rest begin to follow.

Sometimes other people want to help with the jigsaw puzzle. They mean well, and since there is no real competition, it feels a bit like bonding – all working towards the same goal. Through puzzles, we learn what works best for me and what works best for you, and where our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn how we organize our thoughts and how we work best – together and alone. Sometimes the puzzle seems easier with only one set of eyes, and only one set of hands, yet for some couples, the last piece may often not even be pressed down unless both puzzle makers are present to witness.

Unlike life however, with a jigsaw puzzle we are convinced that we will always know what it will look like by the end. In life, we’re not so sure. We think we know where all the corners are, and where all the edges will be – but in life, and in love as well, there are no set boundaries. New pieces get added to the mix while others disappear. Sometimes we don’t even want to look at the puzzle anymore. Yet the puzzle keeps growing. Piece by piece by piece. And when, after what feels like forever, the pieces start to fall into place more easily, the last hundred pieces seem quite simple compared to the first.

Yet the lessons learned from puzzle making stay with us either way. Sometimes in life we complete our puzzle and we let it sit. We glue or it or frame it or cover it with glass, to be admired and envied. Sometimes we are afraid to break the puzzle apart again, back into its original pieces, back into the box. Yet even when we do, the puzzle is still complete. It is just complete in its most basic components.

For sometimes in life and in love, a piece goes missing. Stuck to an elbow, to a shoe, to a stain on the floor. Disappointment is sure to be the outcome, for the puzzle will never be 100%. But even so, the project was never a failure. It was simply a 999 piece puzzle, rather than 1000.

This is because a puzzle is all about success, completion, satisfaction and patience. There is no such thing as a puzzle that was a ‘waste of time’. They require attention to detail, intelligence, coordination, and focus. So even if one piece is missing, a true puzzle is more about the process than it is about the inevitable outcome. By the time we are ready to put our life puzzle into the box, we understand that we may never know the finished picture.

But we should know by then that the painstaking, tedious, time consuming journey that was required to make it – was really the most beautiful part of all.

~ by Chris Hibbard on November 4, 2015.

One Response to “Jigsaw Life”

  1. Brilliant analogy
    beautifully worded
    refreshing and heart warming

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